April 26, 2014

Hollywood should stop using real children

A couple of years ago in Taki's Magazine, I argued that the 2011 hit sci-fi movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes revealed the technological feasibility of two possible social reforms:
This ape-liberation saga marked an important development in movie history ... Rise showed that you can make a monkey movie without the monkey: Put Andy Serkis in a performance capture suit, then digitally make him up as a chimp in post-production.  
At present, that’s still quite expensive. (Rise had a $93-million budget.) But if Moore’s Law, which predicts that computing power doubles every year or two, stays in effect for another decade and a half, digital chimps will only cost 1/1024th of what they did in Rise.  
At that price, who needs a real ape? ... 
As it becomes clear that having men play monkeys is better for all concerned, a similar question will suggest itself: Is it humane to use human children as professional entertainers? 
The digital technology enabling adults to portray kid characters is rapidly arriving. Should audiences encourage that switch? 
We should definitely consider it. We can all think of child stars who grew up to be sane adults, but the casualty list is long and lurid. A recent study found that 58 percent of retired laboratory chimpanzees show symptoms of depression. What would a study of former child actors find? A consuming hunger to get back into the spotlight and a permanent aversion to a normal job?

One obvious problem is sexual exploitation of ambitious minors. A January 8, 2012 Los Angeles Times story by Dawn C. Chmielewski reports, “At least a dozen child-molestation and child-pornography prosecutions since 2000 have involved actors, managers, production assistants and others in the entertainment industry.” That’s not a huge number—one known case per year—but who can begin to guesstimate the number of unknown cases?  
Much of what’s considered big news is driven by plaintiff attorneys who package scandals for the press. The Catholic Church was a particularly juicy target for sex-abuse lawsuits due to its two-thousand-year history as a centralized, deep-pocketed organization. In contrast, the entertainment industry is dispersed and amorphous.  
Moreover, man-bites-dog stories make better headlines. For several months, millions of words have been printed about one homosexual pedophile football coach, Jerry Sandusky, in part because of the rarity factor. Scandals involving sleazeball showbiz managers, on the other hand, attract less attention because they are a depressing cliché. 
The virtues of virtualizing child characters can be seen in one fiasco averted. In 1990, the first year of The Simpsons, “Bartmania” swept the world. Imagine if The Simpsons had been a filmed show. The little boy who played Bart would now be in his 30s. What would he be like today? Fortunately, Bart Simpson is a cartoon character voiced by a grown woman, Nancy Cartwright.
     

38 comments:

Whiskey said...

Steve -- There are a number of Hollywood kid actors who have done fine, starting with Shirley Temple Black and running through Kurt Russell, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Jonah Hill.

The key is: non-predatory or dependent parents, non-substance abusing parents, and parents who keep their kids away from sleazeball managers, agents, casting directors, and companies (particularly Disney).

Most of this is the parents, who seek fame, money, sex, and drugs through their kids. You can't legislate that away, and the difference between a real kid actor really nailing it (say that kid in the remake of True Grit, Scarlett Johanssen in the Horse Whisperer) and an adult performance transmuted through CGI is noticeable. As noticeable as say, a Bach concerto done elevator music style. Its still Bach. But its also Elevator Music.

The sleaziest company is Disney, run by gay guys and aimed at young girls. Gay guys seem to know what young girls want, and find enthralling. And they also seem to victimize a lot of young boys.

And, contra the assertion that the Entertainment Industry is decentralized, the players are not and form a highly connected and stable social network.

To wit, the plaintiff suing Bryan Singer is also suing Garth Ancier. Ancier was head of programming at Fox, WB, and CNN. So he's moved around a lot. But he's still Garth Ancier, i.e. a major Hollywood player and its reasonable to assume Fox, WB, and CNN knew well about his proclivities with young underage boys.

Hollywood is like the Italian political leadership. People got fired and new people brought in, but they were always the same old crowd, over and over again. All married, related, cronies, of each other and the same guys showing up over and over and over again.

Human beings behave in clearly identifiable and repeated patterns. We are social animals. And none more than Hollywood.

Anthony said...

First chimpanzees, then children. Pretty soon, you'll have us convinced that Hollywood shouldn't use actors at all, and we'll be left with cartoons, cgi, and foreign country movies.

Anonymous said...

Irony of this post is that it comes on the heels of the deaths of 2 of Classic Hollywood's biggest child stars, Mickey Rooney and Shirley Temple, one of the 20th century's biggest child actors ever.

Miss. Temple attended Harvard-Westlake back in the day, and, unlike many child stars parents of that time, actually didn't rob her blind but invested her money wisely.

She was an all around classic in more ways than one including as a person.

The Good Ship Lollypop has sailed into the sunset.

reiner Tor said...

First chimpanzees, then children. Pretty soon, you'll have us convinced that Hollywood shouldn't use actors at all, and we'll be left with cartoons, cgi, and foreign country movies.

I think that while CGI actors are certainly capable of supporting President Obama or any other worthwhile goodthinking cause célèbre, they cannot fulfill the other useful roles actors play in our society, such as filling tabloids or adopting color-coded children like Brangelina do. Maybe tabloid stories could be replaced by scripted soap operas, including adopted third world children.

Also, we might run the risk of driving Hollywood bankrupt in competition with real-actor-using foreign film studios. I have yet to think of a reason why that would harm America, though.

whorefinder said...

The movie was Clifford, circa 1994, starring Martin Short made to look like the world's creepiest under-10-year-old/world's happiest child molester-in-disguise.

Anonymous said...

Clippers Owner Donald Sterling

Funny how there's so much fuss about this but TOTAL silence about the ongoing oppression of Palestinians. I guess protecting the feelings of black guys who makes tens of millions and hump 1000s of white women a year is a more pressing issue than desperately poor Palestinians who still live under occupation.

And funny how black rappers who hurl all manner of insults are treated like royalty.

Of course lots of Jews talk like this all the time about gentiles and blacks. The only difference is this guy got caught, and so the Jews who run the media are raising a stink about how offended they are as damage control.

But the very same Jews don't seemed to be offended by how Israeli leaders tolerate and even praise rabbis who say gentiles exist only to serve Jews. If anything, American Jews go out of their way to enable Israeli Jews.

dsgntd_plyr said...

Steve, is this your way of addressing the Bryan Singer child rape allegations?

Anonymous said...

Why not just eliminate football and recreate games with CGI?

Anonymous said...

OK Steve but who is going to be in those ape suits? Since apes don't typically have speaking parts I bet those aping jobs go to immigrants.

Anonymous said...

The argument against child stars can be summed up in two words.

Miley Cyrus.

Or, if you want two different words, Lindsay Lohan.

David said...

In her memoir, Temple says Arthur Freed, the producer of "The Wizard of Oz," exposed himself to her in his office after remarking that she was not a little girl anymore. She was 11 or 12 years old.

Hollywood. Always classy.

Anonymous said...

Completely off topic, please note the opening cannon salvo in World War T in Holbrook, Long Island. From what I can glean of the story (it has been run thru the PC filters of the various news sources who reported on it), a woman shows up at a bar (not a gay bar, apparently), displays I.D. with a picture of himself when she was a man, and is insulted when the doorman questions the authenticity of said I.D. Not sure if the Complainant has had the surgery, or is just at the dressing-up stage.

http://longisland.news12.com/news/transgender-community-protests-after-transgender-woman-says-she-was-mistreated-at-irish-times-pub-in-holbrook-1.7831414

Chicago said...

I'd love to see them get rid of all news anchors and replace them with computer generated virtual news readers. The people with the expensive hairdos and nickel heads just read from the teleprompter. They're an appalling bunch and nobody tunes in to see their puss. Get rid of them all. A realistic computer generated news reader could lift it's fake eyebrows as meaningfully as any of these overpaid human anchor faces. Just give us the so-called news.

JayMan said...

The problem with looking at the poor outcomes of some child stars and blaming their lives in the spotlight is one of the classic problems in social science: how do we determine causation? Child stars are pretty damned exceptional people. Such unusual people are going to have unusual lives. Indeed, as per Greg Cochran's post Intellectual Ambergris, many of these people have psychological disorders that enables their artistic ability. Sure, we can argue that being a child star is an upbringing highly outside the norm, and it is, but before we are sure that that life is in and of itself the problem, we may want to rule out troubles that comes from within in these child stars.

reiner Tor said...

An even better idea would be to get the news not through TV, but instead using an electronic network from different news sources. You might even be able to download TV shows or movies through the same network. I'm not sure how realistic my idea is, but I already have name for it: interwebs.

reiner Tor said...

That is a good point, JayMan, yet why take chances with the lives of children? If their lives will turn out shitty anyway, then it doesn't matter. But i personally believe there is such a thing as a personality who is otherwise more or less normal, but who cannot bear too much fame and money at a too early age. And I think it's even widespread.

James Kabala said...

Former child star Mara Wilson has also predicted the elimination of child actors in the future. I just don't see it. Remember, the number of movies with "child stars" is a fraction of those with child actors. Make a mental list of your five or ten favorite movies - maybe none had child stars in the pejorative sense, but probably most of them at some point had a child in a speaking role.

You could go down the AFI list. Citizen Kane? A kid played Kane as a boy and then later Kane's own son also appeared. Both roles were very brief - replacing them with CGI would likely be a bothersome expense. It's not as if a true pedophile wouldn't find people to hunt down elsewhere. It sounds like security theater.

Education Realist said...

There are three sorts of child stars:

1) The genuine talents, the ones who stay in the business for decades, either top tier or middle.

Jodi Foster, Ron Howard, Dean Stockwell, Robert Blake, Kurt Russell, Mickey Rooney (maybe), Roddy McDowell, even Alyssa Milano, and I'm forgetting many but you get the idea.

2) The genuine child stars, the ones who are amazingly cute, amazingly talented, but lose something as puberty hits, and grow up to lead fairly normal lives.

Shirley Temple, Kid who played Timmy in the Lassie films, Jane Withers, Jerry Mathers, Fred Savage, the Hickman brothers, about half of the Disney child stars and a ton of supporting players (the kids from Family Ties, Cosby show, Malcolm in the Middle), Virginia Weidler, Margaret O'Brien, the Cartwright sisters, Larry Matthews, etc.

3) The kids who were cute, lost something as puberty hit, and went nuts--or just had trouble adjusting. These kids were also more likely to be exploited.

Haley Joel Osment, Mackenzie Caulkin, Robert Blake (the middle years), Mickey Rooney (ditto), Lindsay Lohan, all the kids from that show with Gary Coleman (Different strokes), Bobby Driscoll, Corey Haim, Jonathan Brandis, Brandon de Wilde, most of the kids from Our Gang, the other half of the kids from TV shows.

I'm leaving out the kids who actually became stars as teens (Jason Bateman, Michael J. Fox, Miley Cyrus)

We tend to hear of the bad ones, but a lot of the kids had perfectly normal lives even after stardom passed. Kind of sad to deprive them of that opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Whiskey:"The key is: non-predatory or dependent parents, non-substance abusing parents, and parents who keep their kids away from sleazeball managers, agents, casting directors, and companies"

And how, exactly, are we going to weed out predatory and dependent parents? Drug and alcohol addicted parents? How are we going to ensure that parents keep their children away from sleazy agents, etc?

Anonymous said...

Whiskey:"Steve -- There are a number of Hollywood kid actors who have done fine, starting with Shirley Temple Black and running through Kurt Russell, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Jonah Hill.

The key is: non-predatory or dependent parents, non-substance abusing parents, and parents who keep their kids away from sleazeball managers, agents, casting directors, and companies (particularly Disney)."

You do know that Kurt Russell worked for Disney as a child actor, right? Of course, one could argue that things were different when Walt was around.

Anonymous said...

Some facts regarding Shirley Temple:

"In “Child Star,” her 1988 autobiography, Mrs. Black said her mother had made a “calculated decision” to turn her only daughter into a professional dancer. At a fee of 50 cents a week, Mrs. Temple enrolled 3-year-old Shirley in Mrs. Meglin’s Dance Studio.

In 1932, Shirley was spotted by an agent from Educational Pictures and chosen to appear in “Baby Burlesks,” a series of sexually suggestive one-reel shorts in which children played all the roles. The 4- and 5-year-old children wore fancy adult costumes that ended at the waist. Below the waist, they wore diapers with oversize safety pins. In these heavy-handed parodies of well-known films like “The Front Page” (“The Runt Page”) and “What Price Glory” (“War Babies”), Shirley imitated Marlene Dietrich, Mae West and — wearing an off-the-shoulder blouse and satin garter as a hard-boiled French bar girl in “War Babies” — Dolores del Río.

Continue reading the main story
When any of the two dozen children in “Baby Burlesks” misbehaved, they were locked in a windowless sound box with only a block of ice on which to sit. “So far as I can tell, the black box did no lasting damage to my psyche,” Mrs. Black wrote in “Child Star.” “Its lesson of life, however, was profound and unforgettable. Time is money. Wasted time means wasted money means trouble.”

“Baby Burlesks” was followed by five two-reel comedies and a year of casting calls and bit-part auditions that garnered young Shirley half a dozen small roles. By Thanksgiving 1933 she was growing older. She was 5 ½, and in the previous two years she had earned a total of $702.50. Her mother did the sensible thing: she shaved a year off her daughter’s age. Shirley would be shocked to discover, at a party for her 12th birthday in April 1941, that she was actually 13."

(NYTIMES obit)

Anonymous said...

The Freed incident:

"What Fox had dropped, MGM picked up eight months later. But the little girl was now entering adolescence. On her first visit to MGM, Mrs. Black wrote in her autobiography, the producer Arthur Freed unzipped his trousers and exposed himself to her. Being innocent of male anatomy, she responded by giggling, and he threw her out of his office."

(NYTIMES obit)

Anonymous said...

Freed bio:

"Arthur Freed (September 9, 1894 – April 12, 1973) was born in Charleston, South Carolina. He was a Jewish[1] American lyricist and a Hollywood film producer.


Freed began his career as a song-plugger and pianist in Chicago. After meeting Minnie Marx, he sang as part of the act of her sons, the Marx Brothers, on the vaudeville circuit, and also wrote material for the brothers.[2] He soon began to write songs, and was eventually hired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. For years, he wrote lyrics for numerous films, many set to music by Nacio Herb Brown.

In 1939, after working (uncredited) in the role of associate producer[3] on The Wizard of Oz, he was promoted to being the head of his own unit within MGM, and helped elevate the studio to the leading creator of film musicals. His first solo credit as producer was the film version of Rodgers and Hart's smash Broadway musical Babes in Arms (also 1939), released only a few months after The Wizard of Oz. It starred Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, and it was so successful that it ushered in a long series of "let's put on a show" "backyard" musicals, all starring Rooney and Garland.

Freed brought an outstanding amount of talent from the Broadway theaters to the MGM soundstages including Vincente Minnelli, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Roger Edens, Kay Thompson, Zero Mostel, June Allyson, Nancy Walker, Charles Walters, orchestrators Conrad Salinger, Johnny Green, Lennie Hayton, and many others.

He also helped shape the careers of stars including Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton, Lena Horne, Jane Powell, Esther Williams, Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Cyd Charisse, Ann Miller, Vera-Ellen, and many others. He brought Fred Astaire to MGM after Astaire's tenure at RKO and coaxed him out of semi-retirement to star with Garland in Easter Parade. His team of writers, directors, composers and stars produced a steady stream of popular, critically acclaimed musicals until the late 1950s.

He allowed his directors and choreographers free rein, something unheard of in those days of committee-produced film musicals, and is credited for furthering the boundaries of film musicals by allowing such moments in films as the fifteen-minute ballet at the end of An American in Paris (1951), after which the film concludes moments later with no further dialogue or singing, and he allowed the musical team of Lerner and Loewe complete control in their writing of Gigi (1958).

According to Hugh Fordin's book The World of Entertainment, however, Freed did have a hand in the stage-to-screen adaptation of at least one of MGM's musicals, the 1951 Technicolor remake of Kern and Hammerstein's stage classic, "Show Boat". It was Freed who disagreed with the original structure of the show's second act, in which more than twenty years pass between most of the act and the final three scenes of the musical. He felt that it made for a lack of drama in the story, and so, together with screenwriter John Lee Mahin, Freed hit upon the idea of having the gambler Gaylord Ravenal leave his wife Magnolia while both are still young and Magnolia is expecting a baby, and then having Julie, the half-black actress who is forced to leave the boat because of her mixed race background, be the person who brings Ravenal and Magnolia back together again after a separation of only a few years rather than twenty. And it was Freed who cast Ava Gardner in the role of Julie.[4]wo of his films won the Academy Award for Best Picture: An American in Paris and Gigi. On the night that An American in Paris won Best Picture, Freed received an Honorary Oscar, and his version of Show Boat was also up for two Oscars that year, though it lost both to An American in Paris. But what is now his most highly regarded film, Singin' in the Rain (1952), won no Oscars whatsoever, nor was it nominated for more (e.g. Best Picture, Best Director, etc.). He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972."



(WIKIPEDIA)

Anonymous said...

""""""Some facts regarding Shirley Temple:

"In “Child Star,” her 1988 autobiography, Mrs. Black said her mother had made a “calculated decision” to turn her only daughter into a professional dancer. At a fee of 50 cents a week, Mrs. Temple enrolled 3-year-old Shirley in Mrs. Meglin’s Dance Studio."""

Translation: Mrs. Temple was a Tiger Mom and remember, the early '30s were some of the Great Depression's worst years so 700 bucks wasn't too shabby for a 3-4yr old.

And Shirley made good by '35 with her first 20th Century Fox films which catapalted her to fame.

Anonymous said...

"""The Freed incident:

"What Fox had dropped, MGM picked up eight months later. But the little girl was now entering adolescence. On her first visit to MGM, Mrs. Black wrote in her autobiography, the producer Arthur Freed unzipped his trousers and exposed himself to her. Being innocent of male anatomy, she responded by giggling, and he threw her out of his office." """"


So, they did have Selfies even waaay back then, pre-iphones.

The things you learn, the things you learn.

Mr. Anon said...

"The Catholic Church was a particularly juicy target for sex-abuse lawsuits due to its two-thousand-year history as a centralized, deep-pocketed organization. In contrast, the entertainment industry is dispersed and amorphous."

And, of course, the entertainment business isn't exactly...........Catholic. Yet, I'm sure that has nothing to do with it.

Anonymous said...

Mr Sailer,

Some days I thing: you're the best!

Anonymous said...

I worked on a (b grade) movie as a student in the eighties. The chimp was played by a little feller, in his late forties at least, called Deep Roy.

There were rumours of child molestation, none the less. But that was down to a bigger star, since deceased.

Anonymous said...

Truly wonderful movie.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cio8LOCZPzw

But why the hell was it rated R? Because it's mildly un-PC?

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2179116/parentalguide?ref_=tt_ql_7

But the bloodfest LONE RANGER(blend of Tim Burton and Tarantino) was PG-13.

dcite said...

"In her memoir, Temple says Arthur Freed, the producer of "The Wizard of Oz," exposed himself to her in his office after remarking that she was not a little girl anymore. She was 11 or 12 years old.

Hollywood. Always classy'

Nevertheless, the preternaturally self-possessed Shirley had the wit to laugh at him, which made him angrily kick her out of his office. Best thing that ever happened to her, show-biz-wise, after the age of 7.

Anonymous said...

"1) The genuine talents, the ones who stay in the business for decades, either top tier or middle.

Jodi Foster, Ron Howard, Dean Stockwell, Robert Blake, Kurt Russell, Mickey Rooney (maybe), Roddy McDowell, even Alyssa Milano, and I'm forgetting many but you get the idea."

Liz Talor, fcol. She didn't always have a 40 in. bust. The talent increased also, imo.

Sean said...

With all due respect to Robert Blake and the curse of 'Our Gang'. Valerio Fioravanti is tough to beat as an example of how child actors go ape. Hell of a way to get your name back in the papers.

Anonymous said...

"parents who keep their kids away from sleazeball managers, agents, casting directors, and companies (particularly Disney)"

Sleazney

Anonymous said...

Hollywood is like the Italian political leadership. People got fired and new people brought in, but they were always the same old crowd, over and over again. All married, related

Careful Whiskey, you could be about to cross the J line there. And we know how you hate to do that.

Anonymous said...

As CGI improves arent actors, kids or adults, going to be redundant anyway? Voice-over work only.

(I'm sure there will still be some live action, stage work etc)

Anonymous said...

I worked on a (b grade) movie as a student in the eighties. The chimp was played by a little feller, in his late forties at least, called Deep Roy.

There were rumours of child molestation, none the less. But that was down to a bigger star, since deceased.


You must be bananas mate! ;-)

Anonymous said...

You got it.
GP

juliya venture said...


see more child stars at http://duckhits.com/9254/8-former-child-stars-stuck-with-their-kid-faces